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Integrated curricula in a Pacific Northwestern high school

20 December 1993


The focus of this study is curriculum integration--the integration of subject matter across the disciplines. During the past 60 years or so a variety of labels have been attached to the larger concept of curriculum integration: correlational classes, fusion or unified studies classes, core classes/curriculum, block time, and the interdisciplinary approach to education, among many others. The single concept central to all the above terms is that it is essential for students to make connections between the seemingly discreet subjects traditionally taught in schools. This project begins with a literature review and historical outline of integrated curricular methods which have been developed and implemented, in the United States, over the past sixty years.

The methodology for this research project included standard elements of qualitative inquiry (educational connoiseurship and educational criticism) as developed by Elliot W. Eisner in The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and the Enhancement of Educational Practice.

Methods for examining the curriculum and teaching practices at the school site included those associated to the qualitative (field work) approach suggested by Eisner: 1) observations of classroom activities recorded in field notes and in a daily journal; 2) informal interviews with teacher(s) (and administrators) regarding conscious attempts at. curriculum integration and teaching methods; 3) informal interviews with students considering the ways in which they perceived the whole curriculum and or attempts to make connections between disciplines on the parts of their teachers.

The study focuses on curriculum integration in a predominantly white, middle-class, sub-urban high school in the Pacific Northwest. Observations were taken primarily in language arts classes, though much of the research was done through observations made in a combined, integrated American History and Junior/Senior Writing class.

Research questions were as follows:

Question 1.
How do the curricula and/or teaching methods used by the High School 's language arts department reflect an interdisciplinary approach to education?

Question 2.
What other types of curriculum integration exist at the school (block-time, core, combined approaches, etc.)?

Question 3.
What conscious and unconscious types of integration appear to occur in the classroom (as evidenced in teaching methods and instructional materials)?


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